Between the 21st of December and the 6th of January, in what is known here in Bavaria as Rauhnächte (smoke nights), it is believed that at this time the veil between this world and the hereafter is at its thinnest. This is a time for change, purification and reflection. It is believed that at this time, through the ritual of “räuchern” or incense burning, you could affect positive change in the new year while protecting your family, farm and livestock. This might all seem very mystical but these old beliefs are now being found to have real evidence in science in our modern times. Many of these plants have antimicrobial and antibacterial properties.
Recently, on a very cold dark night in November, my colleague Ulrike McCarthy and I, were invited to learn about these traditions at one of our local farms. Our spiritual guide, Angelika Prem, also a writer for Schliersee magazine, has been teaching and performing these ancient rituals for more than 15 years. You can say she has been involved in them much longer as it was all just a very normal part of the seasonal calendar for her family farm. What she didn’t learn at her mother’s hearth, she learned by taking courses and reading extensibly on the subject and now offers courses and seminars at her farm, Hennerehof, right here in Schliersee.
When we first arrived, before we gathered together around the roaring fire, Angelika used a “Räucherbündel or Räucherzigarre” to clean our energy and prepare us for this ritual. In the US we call this a smudging stick. The plants for the purpose of making smudging sticks and other smoking rituals, are traditionally gathered on the 15th of August the official holiday of the Assumption of Mary.
Once “clean” Angelika began to hand us various items she had gathered for ceremonial purposes from the forest around her farm. Hardened tree resin, dry bunches of various plants and even hand written notes. All were given out at different times in the ceremony and we were encouraged to dig deep in our emotions and cast the difficult or negative thoughts into the flames, along with the plants and powders. “This is a great time to unpack your baggage” she repeated often to us. I have to admit I had a hard time deciding which bag to unload as it sure has been a challenging year.
When we could stand the blustering cold no longer, we went into the cozy alpine farmhouse of Hennerehof. Once inside we sipped steaming mugs of tea and snacked on homemade pumpkin soup and cookies. The energy of gathering with such knowledgable women was very intoxicating. Could that magical moment be a result of the exotic scent of mystical vapors from the various incense we were learning their uses? I do not know the answer, but I have to highly recommend coming to Schliersee and taking a few of Angelika’s seminars. It will most definitely reignite your connection with the traditions of the old ways.
To find out more about the amazing Angelika Prem and sign up for her courses, please click this link:
American artist, photographer and professional wanderer who, after 20 years of roaming, put down roots in a 100 year old Bavarian farmhouse and fell in love with the Alpine village and its residents (both 2-legged and 4-legged).